La Scala – The Harlequin EP

La Scala
The Harlequin EP

It isn’t the fact these 4 gentlemen are from Chicago that amazes, it’s the fact they’re from North America. La Scala sounds as though they should be from the other side of the Atlantic; haunting Spanish taverns or busking on the streets of gay Paris. It’s rock music they perform, of course, not anything with accordions or violins. But it’s done with a certain flair, a panache, a je nais se qua that oozes mystery and suspense and well, something not very American.

The Harlequin EP is the result of the band being together for just over a year and spending time in such groups as Hum & The Dirty Things has helped to push the quality of the songs. Before you can sit down after pressing play the opening track, “Bon Vivant” is off like some sort of pissed off bee, the guitar line of Kirk McMahon darting all around your ears. You better sit down & listen after that cause singer Balthazar de Lay has a lot of words he’s going to be singing, spitting them out like a carnival barker. (“Bon Vivant?” Balthazar de Lay? See, I told you these guys didn’t seem too American.) By the chorus however you’ll be wanting to jump up and clap “ole!” at the end of each line. And you may as well keep standing since the second track, “Parallel Lives” has a real ass shaking groove to it in that sort of post punk glammed up Killers sort of way. Only it’s far sexier and less smug than the Killers. It’s a funky little number with an infectious pre-chorus. Girls are lying, boys are swinging, crimes have been happening, it’s all some sexy kinda fun going on.

Half way through the EP it’s time to flip this record over and see what these fellas have in store for us. The title track tells a good story, albeit a little hokey, but it fits right in with the general exotic party theme that’s going on. The final song brings the album to a rather uneventful close, there isn’t much memorable about it and sadly by this point the tricks have gone a little stale. The buzzing lead guitar has grown old, after pulling off the same patterns in each song. Strum the high strings fast, go as far up the neck as you can, repeat. Yawn.

The CD version of the EP comes with a bonus track, “Love Love Love” that attempts to redeem things and while better than the B-side tracks it isn’t as strong, or as raucous, as the first 2 tracks. All told the band, and de Lay’s story telling in particular, is adept in creating a swirling and nearly cinematic batch of songs. Perfect for an evening of bare-chested heroics, women with ample bosoms, and villains with thin pointed moustaches.